Two new schools, additional classrooms among Indian River’s necessities

13 IRSD certificate pitch

Jim Hudson, Indian River School District board of education president, shares information on plans to address enrollment growth and overcrowding during a special board meeting earlier this year. At left is IRSD Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting.

GEORGETOWN – Needs to meet spiraling enrollment and classroom overcrowding have been identified and the Indian River School District is set to move forward.

The district’s board of education Thursday night authorized the district to begin the certificate of necessity process for a capital improvement pitch to the state that includes construction of two new schools, classroom-wing expansion at Sussex Central High School and projects at three other elementary and middle schools.

In addition, the district is requesting a new Howard T. Ennis facility, which serves students with significant disabilities in the Indian River School District and other districts.

A new Ennis school would be 100-percent state funded and would not be part of the public referendum process.

Indian River is one of the fastest-growing districts in the state. Enrollment as the Sept. 30, 2015 count stood at 10,171. The district’s five-year projection data (2016-2021) projects enrollment will increase by almost 1,700 students to 11,942.

“We have been steadily growing and because of that we can calculate our average growth over the last so many years and do a projection,” said Indian River School District Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting. “Only Red Clay and Christina have more teachers than we do. We need classrooms for our teachers and we need classrooms for our students. I am quite excited about the fact that we are going to be working toward achieving more space for great academic adventures for our kids.”

Schools in the northern part of the district are well beyond capacity “and that concerns us because we are now looking at close to five years from now before this whole process might come to a conclusion and we move people into a building,” Dr. Bunting said.

Projects to be packaged in the certificate of necessity are:

  • a new elementary school (approximately 720 students) at the Ingram Pond property in Millsboro;
  • a new middle school (approximately 750 to 800 students) on the Sussex Central High School property;
  • construction of at least 16 additional classrooms and cafeteria and gymnasium expansion at Sussex Central High School;
  • cafeteria renovation and expansion at Phillip C. Showell Elementary in Selbyville;
  • stairwell and mechanical room projects at Lord Baltimore Elementary in Ocean View;
  • possible parking lot upgrades at Selbyville Middle School.

Anything approved by the state and subsequently with referendum passage would be 60 percent state-funded, and 40 percent local.

The ballpark cost estimate will be determined through the architectural process.

“What the board gave us was permission to start the process. We now have to work with architects and develop plans to get a cost, the best we can estimate and then submit that for state approval,” Dr. Bunting said.

Certificates of necessity will be submitted by late July or early August.

“Then we have to wait until November to see which of those are accepted by the state,” said Dr. Bunting.

A referendum date would be established by the school board. Dr. Bunting predicts that would likely be in late January, early February or maybe even into March 2017.

“If our referendum goes down the first time we can come back within the year – our school year – so we want to plan the first one so that if indeed we had to come back we could get that done before June 30 (2017), before the end of the (state’s) fiscal year,” Dr. Bunting said. “Right now by state law we can do two within that time.”

The public has been involved, particularly through frequent meetings of the Futures Committee which the district established last fall.

“We are really hoping that we will have an opportunity to be invited to speak to PTO groups and civic organizations and explain with facts our growth and what we have projected and why we have chosen to go the pathway that we have gone,” Dr. Bunting said. “We are really hoping that the public will interact with us heavily as we go through this process. That kind of community support has led us to where we are now as far as academic programs and use of facilities and so forth. We highly value that input.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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